This utter confusion
Yet, within two months of the battle of Jutland, the submarine campaign had begun again, and, at the time of Mr. Churchill’s rejoinder, the world was losing shipping at the rate of three million tons a year! As there never had been the least dispute that to mine the submarine into German harbours was the best, if not the only, antidote, never the least doubt that it was only the German Fleet23 that prevented this operation from being carried out it seemed strange that an ex-First Lord of the Admiralty should be telling the world first, that the German Fleet in its home bases delivered no attack on us and therefore need not be defeated! And, secondly, as if to clinch the matter and silence any doubts as to the cogency of his argument, we were to make the best of it because victory was impossible.
of mind was typical of the public attitude. If a man who had been First Lord at the most critical period of our history had understood events so little, could the man in the street know any better?
Once more the root principles of war were urged on public notice. But it was already too late. Jutland, whether a victory, or something far less than a victory, had at any rate left the public in the comfortable assurance that the ability of the British Fleet was virtually unimpaired to preserve the flow of provisions, raw material, and manufactures into Allied harbours and to maintain our military communications. But soon after the third year of the war began, a change came over the scene. The highest level that the submarine campaign had reached in the past was regained, and then surpassed month by month. Gradually it came to be seen that the thing might become critical—and this though the campaign was not ruthless. Yet it was carried out on a larger scale and with bolder methods which the possession of a larger fleet of submarines made possible. The element of surprise in the thing was not that the Germans had renewed the attempt—for it was clear from the terms of surrender to America that they would renew it at their own time. The surprise was in its success. The public, still trusting to the attitude of mind induced by the critics and by the authorities in 1915,24 had taken it for granted that the two previous campaigns had stopped in December, 1915, and in March, 1916, because of the efficiency of our counter-measures. The revelation of the autumn of 1916 was that these counter-measures had failed.
It was this that brought about the third naval crisis of the war. Once more the old wrong remedy was tried. The Government and the public had learned nothing from the revelation that we had gone to war on the doctrine that the Fleet need not, and ought not, to fight the enemy, and were apparently unconcerned at discovering that it could not fight with success. And so, still not realizing the root cause of all our trouble, once more a remedy was sought by changing the chief naval adviser to the Government.
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